What’s Next For the Lynx With Sylvia Fowles Back?

Image courtesy of the Minnesota Lynx on Twitter

The Minnesota Lynx finished the 2021 WNBA season with the No. 3 seed in the WNBA standings with hopes of making a deep postseason run. However, the year concluded earlier than expected for the Minnesota Lynx after they dropped a single-elimination second-round contest to the Chicago Sky, who went on to win it all.

In 2022, Minnesota will continue to carry title aspirations and will likely be a contender again throughout the summer. But before that journey can begin, the Lynx entered the WNBA offseason with a few big questions yet to be answered, mainly involving who exactly will return to take the floor in Minnesota this summer.

The biggest question mark going into the offseason surrounds two of the most important players on Minnesota’s roster, Lynx stars Sylvia Fowles and Napheesa Collier. Fowles, who expressed at the end of the 2021 campaign she was strongly considering retirement after her 14th season, entered the offseason as an unrestricted free agent whose future was uncertain. Collier, who is still under contract, announced her pregnancy earlier this offseason and will likely miss most or all of the 2022 season with her due date set for May.

While the offseason initially looked quiet for the Lynx, it has suddenly gotten more interesting. But as free agency gets underway throughout the WNBA, Minnesota finally got an important answer to at least one of its questions this week.

On Tuesday, Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune reported that Fowles, 36, was planning to return this season, her 15th. A day later, Fowles took to Instagram and confirmed those reports when she announced she will be returning for at least one more season in Minnesota.

With Fowles back, that answers arguably the biggest offseason question for the Lynx as they get their All-Star and future Hall of Fame center back to try and make a run at a championship. But now that she’s back, what is next for Minnesota before the 2022 season tips off?

Questions Remaining for Lynx This Offseason

Now with the Fowles question answered, Minnesota can continue on in the offseason knowing it will have its star center back in the mix in 2022. With that behind the Lynx, they now can shift their focus on some other questions such as players who are currently free agents, whether it’s worth scanning the free agent and trade markets for potential additions to the team, and the status of Collier this summer.

The news of Fowles returning gives Minnesota a better understanding of where it stands in terms of its salary cap situation, even though Fowles can’t technically sign her free-agent contract until Feb. 1 when teams and players are officially able to announce signings around the league. Regardless of the length of her contract, Fowles will likely receive a supermax contract near $228,094, which will use up a bulk of Minnesota’s $432,198 remaining salary under the WNBA’s cap it entered the offseason with, according to Her Hoop Stats.

With roughly $200,000 left, the Lynx could try and re-sign the two other unrestricted free agents they have, Layshia Clarendon and Rachel Banham. You would think Clarendon would re-sign on a deal somewhere around the $100,000 range annually if Minnesota decides to bring the point guard back after a successful trial run in 2021. With Banham, she would likely have to sign for the veteran minimum of $72,141 if both sides agreed to those terms. That would leave little to no additional room left under the cap for the Lynx, and could be all the movement we see from Minnesota this offseason barring any trades.

If Clarendon and/or Banham don’t re-sign with the Lynx, Minnesota could potentially look into the free-agent pool and would have the space to sign a contributing player with that remaining $200,000 or so in salary. There are a lot of intriguing names on the free-agent market this offseason, so if the Clarendon and Banham talks don’t lean towards agreements, that’s another option. Another possibility for the Lynx is to look towards the trade market if teams are looking to move players, which you can never count out as another scenario to add to the roster.

The final question yet to be answered is what Collier’s status might be in 2022. With her announcement of her pregnancy earlier this offseason and her scheduled due date of May, which is when the year tips off, we likely won’t see Collier in a Lynx uniform for most or all of the 2022 campaign. She could obviously make her return late in the regular season or in the postseason, as has occurred with other players in the past after giving birth, but will at least miss a bulk of the summer. If the star wing does miss most or all of the season, then Minnesota might have to look to fill that void with another player either via free agency, trade, or the upcoming WNBA Draft.

In what has become an offseason of questions for Minnesota, it at least has the ball rolling on answering some of those questions leading up to the 2022 season. We now know that Fowles is back, which is a huge aspect to the Lynx attempting to contend for a championship in the new year. But there still are more questions yet to be answered, and we should learn more about how exactly this Minnesota team will look in the coming weeks.

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